When it comes to good dental health, it’s a question that might be older than the proverbial inquiry: What came first—the chicken or the egg?
Do I brush first and floss second or vice-versa?
While some dental health professionals may not agree on the specific sequence, almost all agree the correct technique for both flossing and brushing are necessary in order to promote good oral health.
A recent article by Dentaly.org features advice from the American Dental Association. That advice indicates while even dentists may disagree on the order of the activities, both brushing and flossing should be done twice per day.
Brushing alone contributes to oral health but often misses food particles between the teeth and near the gum line. Flossing helps remove food and bacteria brushes can’t get to and reduces the chance of contracting oral health disease problems like gingivitis.
But again, back to the correct order. Healthline.com offers a logical argument for flossing first, then brushing. The position here is that if you brush first (which most people do out of habit) and then floss, some of the food particles dislodged by flossing remain in your mouth until the next time you brush. Those food particles contribute to the build-up of plaque, a prime culprit in the development of oral health problems. If you floss regularly and then brush, plaque, which takes about 24 to 36 hours to harden on your teeth, has less of a chance to literally stick around.
Most dental health practitioners recommend taking about two minutes for flossing and another two minutes for brushing, to make sure you are doing a thorough job and reaching all four quadrants of teeth and gums: upper and lower right side, upper and lower left side. And while you should finish off the job by spitting excess toothpaste when done, most people go overboard with a post-floss/brush practice of vigorously rinsing with water. Limit your water rinse to a small amount to give the fluoride in your toothpaste a chance to help prevent tooth decay.
There are three other tricks of the dental health trade to keep in mind as well. The type of brush you use, the type of toothpaste you use, and the type of mouthwash—if any—you use, can also contribute to a great smile and healthy teeth and gums.
Dr. Ross Smith, DDS with Brevard Health Alliance, offers some guidance on each.
“Our manual dexterity is inferior to the mechanics of an electric toothbrush in terms of strokes per minute which leads to more plaque removal which is the fundamental goal of brushing,” explains Smith.
“Other benefits of electric over manual are pressure sensors for the delicate gums and a timer to reach the all-important two-minutes of total brushing time.”
When it comes to choosing the right toothpaste, the BHA dental specialist points to differences depending on brands.
“Toothpaste that contains only fluoride is superior to holistic toothpaste because fluoride chemically blocks a key step in the chemical reaction of bacteria metabolizing the sugar we consumer into acid which is what causes dental decay,” explains Smith.
“Toothpaste that contains baking soda is more for whitening and surface stain removal because of its mildly abrasive properties.”
To round out good oral health practices, Smith also offers some sage advice on the use of mouthwashes.
“They are useful, but don’t overdo it,” says the BHA dentist.
“Mouthwashes offer 360-degree protection and should be used for 30 seconds. Mouthwashes that are alcohol free reduce the burn while rinsing.”
Other fast facts from Dr. Smith about the use of mouthwashes:
- Pregnant women are encouraged to use mouthwashes.
- Mouthwashes don’t cure bad breath but can freshen it.
- Mouthwashes cannot replace the health benefits of brushing and flossing.
- Not all mouthwashes are created equal. Antibacterial mouthwashes are used primarily for killing bacteria and eliminating bad breath; fluoride rinses are helpful for patients who don’t use enough fluoride to strengthen their teeth to fight off bacteria; prescription mouthwashes are for people with gum disease or gingivitis.